Red tape tying up fire management

Warren HatelyAugusta Margaret River Times

A new challenge to local governments controlling bushfire fuel loads is now under consideration by the South West zone of the WA Local Government Association.

Shire president Ian Earl and chief executive Stephanie Addison-Brown took their concerns about recent changes to the Biodiversity Conservation Act to their zone colleagues last Friday.

As reported earlier this month, Cr Earl said more extensive requirements — which include the commissioning of consultants to produce flora and fauna protection plans — were hampering the work of volunteer brigades engaged to control fuel loads on private land.

Cr Earl not only questioned whether it was appropriate work for volunteers, but said it was hindering the Shire’s ability to reduce fuels as part of the Capes mosaic which included Shire reserves and national parks under the control of the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions.

“The real issue for the community is that when all people are doing mitigation works of any sort in bush, they will need to comply with the Act,” he said.

“This will have an impact on all private contractors and bushfire brigades doing these works.”

Landowners were advised of the changes, which many local governments were yet to tackle, Cr Earl said.

To protect brigades, all paperwork would be needed before burns can occur.

“This is a two-stage process and can cost about approximately $600 and take a minimum 20 working days,” he said.

“This means that no private property bush burns will now be able to be undertaken prior to Christmas.”

Cr Earl said he and brigade chiefs were concerned at the new requirements, the delay on burns, and the lack of communication about the changes.

Warren-Blackwood MLA Terry Redman said the problem was also raised by constituents.

“While in principle I agree with protecting native fauna species, the level of bureaucracy now required is making it extremely difficult for landowners to manage fire risk,” he said.

“Of more concern is the potential reluctance of volunteer bushfire brigades to assist with private burns as this activity may open the door to prosecution if the correct permits are not in place.”

Cr Earl believed it was also an added risk to volunteer fireys and he was writing to the Ministers and State departments with oversight.

Mr Redman said WA Government intervention was needed immediately. Cr Earl said he was writing to the Ministers and State departments with oversight.

Shire sustainable development director Dale Putland said additional resources were allocated to make sure the Act was followed for burns on reserves it managed as well as briefing brigades.

Get the latest news from thewest.com.au in your inbox.

Sign up for our emails